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Issue #1

Smashing the Bell Jar

Shades of Gender in China

January–March 2019

Sun and moon have no light left, earth is dark; / Our women’s world is sunk so deep, who can help us? / Jewelry sold to pay this trip across the seas, Cut off from my family I leave my native land. / Unbinding my feet I clean out a thousand years of poison, / With heated heart arouse all women’s spirits. / Alas, this delicate kerchief here / Is half stained with blood, and half with tears.

Qiu Jin, 1904 (translated by Jonathan Spence)

 

As she bode farewell to China in the summer of 1904, early revolutionary Qiu Jin penned these words to bemoan the fate of herself and of uncountable Chinese women. She was leaving behind her husband—whom she had married out of obligation—and two young children to go to study in Japan. Having returned to China, she would continue to engage in revolutionary activities, and was ultimately beheaded by the Qing authorities in July 1907 at the age of 31. Martyrdom made her into a legend. More than a century later, bound feet belong to another age and kerchieves stained with blood and tears have become an overused trope in revolutionary literature. Still, Qiu Jin’s spirit is more alive than ever in a whole new generation of Chinese feminists who are fighting for women’s rights—a renewed attempt to smash the bell jar of China’s patriarchal society. This issue of the Made in China Journal offers a series of perspectives on the plight and struggles of women and sexual minorities in today’s China.
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